“IT WAS A GUTSY call, a ‘Hail Mary’ pass,” the colonel told the cable-news talking head.
The colonel, speaking of President Bush’s surprise visit to Baghdad, meant it as praise. But as every football fan knows, you heave a Hail Mary when time’s running out.
While it might not be accurate to dub Bush’s Baghdad trip “Operation Desperation,” the spectacle did highlight the stunning difference between the way things are in Iraq and the way the war promoters promised us things would be.
Think about it: Instead of being showered with flowers and cheers by grateful Iraqis, the Great Liberator had to sneak into the country under the cover of darkness—kind of the reverse of a despised dictator who surreptitiously bolts his country to avoid summary justice.
Now, keep your knee-jerk reactions in check, ye fire-breathers of the right; I don’t mean to suggest that Bush is the equivalent of any of the numerous thugs our government has supported over the years. The point is that, now that we’re a few days removed from the media’s breathless coverage of Bush’s Thanksgiving surprise, we can see even more clearly what a turkey this idea of invading Iraq really was.
The White House wants us to forget this sad reality by trying to persuade us that the Iraq attack was an absolutely necessary battle in the global war against terrorism.
“You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq so we don’t have to face them in our own country,” Bush told the troops he met in Baghdad.
But if you want to understand how silly this argument is, imagine Bush making it prior to the invasion, say at that seemingly scripted press conference a few days before the start of combat.
Reporter: “Hack Scribner of The Daily Regurgitator, sir. Mr. President, could you tell the American people how the invasion of Iraq relates to the war on terror?”
President: “I appreciate you asking that question, Hack. Of course I can. What we’re going to do is move more than 100,000 of our troops into Iraq and use them as bait to draw the evildoers out of their lairs. Then we’ll pound the living daylights out of ’em. That way we won’t have to fight ’em here outside the gates of the White House.”
Other than a few sycophants in the Washington press corps, who would’ve taken this explanation seriously? But this is essentially what the president now tells us we’re doing in Iraq.
People who know better say the administration’s latest justification for invading Iraq makes no sense. Richard Clarke, who served as a senior counterterrorism official under Bush and President Clinton, told Knight Ridder, “Fighting Iraq had little to do with fighting the war on terrorism, until we made it [so].”
Former White House officials Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, in the afterword to their book “The Age of Sacred Terror,” write, “From the perspective of counterterrorism professionals, the war in Iraq was not a continuation, but a diversion.”
And former Bush counterterrorism coordinator Rand Beers, who quit in March just before the invasion, told Knight Ridder that troops, intelligence agents, and spy gadgetry were withdrawn from Afghanistan so they could be used in Iraq. Beers—who’s now working for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry, D–Mass.—said the Iraq war has hindered progress in Afghanistan and helped the Taliban regroup. “We missed some opportunities,” Beers said.
Counterterrorism experts also have pointed out that the U.S. occupation of Iraq serves as a handy recruiting tool for those seeking to harvest a new crop of jihadists.
Of course, there are some people out there—such as the folks making commercials at the Republican National Committee—who paint Bush’s critics as unpatriotic. But if they want to play rough, fine. It’s easy to be rough back.
For starters, how about a brutal explanation of how we wound up in Iraq, using language that the red-meat right understands:
We started a war because some effete intellectuals had a theory that if they toppled Saddam Hussein, they could easily turn Iraq into a model of democracy for the rest of the Arab world while establishing a large U.S. military presence that would take the place of the troops now stationed in Saudi Arabia.
Several of these intellectuals, such as chief war architect Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, are chicken hawks who conveniently avoided combat when they were young men but nevertheless were eager to sacrifice American blood and treasure to test their theory. These pointy heads sold their idea to a president who didn’t know the difference between a Sunni and Shiite and the result, as one New York Times reader put it, is a Mess-in-potamia.
This unnecessary military adventure, as most of the world realizes, has made us less safe, not more.
There, got all that? It might not be mean enough to match right-wing vitriol, but it has the merit of being a bit closer to the truth.
RICK MERCIER is a writer and editor for The Free Lance–Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2003, The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co